I Sing The Body Electric: Program Notes — this afternoon at 5 EST 2 PST

It is once more that time of the month:  I’ll be doing another of my interviews on Virtually Speaking Science, live from the Exploratorium’s hall in Second Life!

My guest this month is Cynthia Graber.  Cynthia is a double-threat science journalist, working in both print and radio; she’s currently at MIT, as it happens, as a Knight Science Journalism Fellow.

Most recently, Cynthia’s been blazing trail in what is rapidly becoming a new genre for nonfiction — what I’ve been calling in my head the non-fiction novella, stories that explode the seams of even length-happy magazines like The New Yorker or The Atlantic, but that do not require a full book’s level of engagement.  These e-book shorts appear now as Kindle Singles, TED books, Byliner projects and more. Perhaps the most discussed in the community I hang with has been the approach pioneered by The Atavist, which adds a fair amount of computing to the text in books sold both as e-texts and as apps.  The other eye-catcher in this domain recently has been the Matter project — a Kickstarter-funded start-up dedicated to original reported and investigative stories centered on science.

Cynthia wrote what became Matter’s second publication, Electric Shock: How Electricity Could Be The Key To Human RegenerationIt’s a story of a Tufts University researcher named Michael Levin, who believes he is on track to work out pathways through which humans could emulate the salamander and regenerate damaged or lost body parts0.


His approach is out of the mainstream for what begins as a kind of out-there body of research, as he focuses not on genetics or stem cell research, but on the electrical signalling functions of our biology.

It’s a wild subject, meticulously and carefully handled.  We’ll be talking about that — and about the perils of reporting on science when the line between the daring and the too-far-out-there isn’t always that easy to discern. That’ll cover most of the hour, but we will also save some time to talk about this brave new world of forms and genres emerging in the context of the new media ecosystem.  Should be fun; stop by if you have a chance.

Listen here.  The program will be available later as a podcast at that link to Blog Talk Radio and on iTunes — look for us under Virtually Speaking Science.

If you’re a virtual world type, you can join the live Second Life audience here.

Again timing:  5 p.m. today Eastern time; 10 p.m. in London; 2 p.m. in the land of my youth over there on the left coast.

Image: Hans Canon,  The Salamander, 1863.

41 replies
  1. 1
    Poopyman says:

    Wait, didn’t Gene Wilder do some work with Peter Boyle on this?

    ETA; Sadly, no can get 2nd Life OR do audio at work.

  2. 2
    gelfling545 says:

    Ah, yes. To the laboratory, Igor.

  3. 3

    Again timing: 5 p.m. today Eastern time; 10 p.m. in London; 2 p.m. in the land of my youth over there on the left coast.

    Maybe you should update the title to agree with the timing, then.

  4. 4
    J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford says:

    I saw the title and it reminded me of the movie “Fame”. I didn’t realize it originated with Walt Whitman.

  5. 5
    Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN) says:

    These Barcelona uniforms are making my eyes hurt.

  6. 6
    Ted & Hellen says:

    Will there be photoshopped, fantasy images of what the electrical brain pulses “look” like?

  7. 7
    mainmati says:

    I’m waiting for little Nell’s smart paper, interactive guidebook as featured in the wonderful “The Diamond Age” by Neal Stephenson.

  8. 8
    MikeJ says:

    @Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN): I think they’re going for a Hunger Games thing. The footballer who was on fire.

  9. 9
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Roger Moore: Oops. Fixt. Damn those reversing signs.

  10. 10
    mclaren says:

    The book title Electric Shock: How Electricity Could Be The Key To Human Regeneration should clearly and obviously be changed to Ahahahahahaa! It’s alive! It’s aliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive!

  11. 11
    Chyron HR says:

    @Ted & Hellen:

    You should start your own virtual tent revival site, where the bloggers denouce science and the commenters praise Jesus in response.

  12. 12
    The Dangerman says:


    Ahahahahahaa! It’s alive! It’s aliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive!

    Speaking of monsters, I’m concerned Tunch has had an epic level freak; the Blog Boss hasn’t posted today and, well, I wonder how far the closest ER is for him. Just in case.

  13. 13
    Ted & Hellen says:

    @Chyron HR:


    A lot of the White Jesus with Blue Eyes have the same level of realism as Tom’s science pics…so yeah, maybe I”ll do that.

  14. 14
    Comrade Mary says:

    Ah, neat! Will fire up that site at 5, Tom.

    @The Dangerman: I prefer to believe that Tunch and Stella have instantly bonded and that John is too awash in the cuteness to manage posting right now.

  15. 15

    @The Dangerman:
    Any problems JGC has today are more likely to be a result of overwhelming cuteness and neediness of the new cat, rather than an elaborate plot cooked up by the fat and lazy full figured and energy conserving Tunch.

  16. 16
    dance around in your bones says:

    I wish I knew what the hell you were talking about here. I guess I will have to listen to the podcast? interview ? to get a clue.

    Hard to do when you are watching multiple grandkids. And watching their progress on Minecraft as well as supplying multiple bottles in the hopes that they will go the fuck to sleep. Minecraft I understand not at all – it makes me dizzy.

    I am an old, I guess.

  17. 17
  18. 18
    Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN) says:

    @MikeJ: Yeah, well I wish the Flaming Footballers would wake the fuck up and beat AC Berlusconi.

  19. 19
    Chyron HR says:

    @Ted & Hellen:

    Bazinga! I’m sure the Nobel Prize committee is retroactively revoking every award they’ve granted for so-called “science” as we speak.

    But remember, folks, when Tim channels the Texas board of education’s textbook guidelines, he’s doing it “from the left”.

  20. 20
    Katie5 says:

    Tom, could you do a virtually speaking on MOOCs? It’s burning up the airwaves (listservs?) of universities and of course MIT has a long history of online education. Don’t know whom you’d interview, although Gerry Canavan has some interesting insights.

  21. 21
    MikeJ says:

    @Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN): I think Berlusconi is making the trains run on time today.

  22. 22

    OT but Jake Tapper is hawking his book about Afghanistan and he’s done an interview with Terry Gross of Fresh Air, which I’m listening to now. I’m finding myself getting angrier and angrier. He just relayed how, safe in D.C., he didn’t realize what a crushing blow the extended deployments of 2007 were on the troops, he didn’t understand it until he went to Afghanistan to write his book.

    Jesus fuck. All of us on the left devoted hundreds of blog posts to topics like how soldiers on their second, third, fourth deployments were being pushed to the breaking point. Nobody fucking listens to us EVER.

  23. 23

    I troll the blog electric,
    The armies of obots I love engirth me and I engirth them,
    They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,
    And discorrupt them from dronez, and charge them full with the charge of the secret conservative soul.

  24. 24

    @Southern Beale:

    Nobody fucking listens to us EVER.

    Of course not. The worst sin for a VSP is to admit that a DFH might possibly be right about something. If they ever have to say something similar to what the DFHs are saying, they have to engage in gratuitous hippie punching to prove that they are absolutely not saying it because they agree with the DFHs. It’s like the first rule of VSPdom.

  25. 25
    Litlebritdifrnt says:

    For Betty from the Twitters

    Breaking: Fla. Gov. Rick Scott, one of the biggest critics of Obamacare, has agreed to expand Medicaid coverage in his home state.

    My guess is that he or members of his family still own companies that will profit from this. He wants his share of those sweet sweet medicaid dollars.

  26. 26
    Anoniminous says:


    Forgot the BWAH-HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!

    Can’t have a mad brain scientist without the maniacal laughter.

  27. 27
    dance around in your bones says:

    @MikeJ: Yeah, I got that part – just….if you could see these kids clicking the controllers w/o even looking! Plus, it makes me dizzy.

    I surf Balloon Juice while pretending to watch Minecraft. “Ooooh! Cool! You got some diamonds and killed a Creeper! (Wha?)

  28. 28
    Anoniminous says:

    @Chyron HR:

    Between the brain dead* Religious Right, the cargo cultists, an MSM staffed by ignorant dumbasses, a population effectively if not actually numerically illiterate, and a Congress chock-a-block with Conservative meatheads gutting funding, science in this country is in a fighting retreat.


    * Technically, I suppose, they aren’t brain dead. They’ve never bothered to put anything in it in the first place.

  29. 29
    Ted & Hellen says:

    @Chyron HR:

    But remember, folks, when Tim channels the Texas board of education’s textbook guidelines,

    Could you link to where I did anything remotely like that, dumbass?

    You and Menmospleen would never comment if you could respond only to what others actually wrote.

  30. 30
    Yutsano says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt: Could be. Also a lot of olds are dual eligibles, so he’s trying to keep the bluehairs who vote for that nice bald guy (who ripped them the fuck off mercilessly) in line.

  31. 31

    Honestly, if expanding Medicaid helps real people, I’m willing to let money suckers make a reasonable profit on the deal. Better a politician who backs a good policy for a bad reason than one who opposes that policy to piss off the liberals.

  32. 32
    Yutsano says:

    @Roger Moore: This. Also. Too. It’s also why I think eventually all the other states are going to join up. Too much cash laying around to be Hoovered up by the parasites for them not to.

  33. 33
    hitchhiker says:

    Thanks very much for this, Tom. I just bought the ebook . . . if I could, I’d have asked what Michael Levin had to say about the possibility of regenerating neurons, specifically motor neurons. Can it really be more complicated that making a new retina?

  34. 34
    Ted & Hellen says:

    Seems to be some “griftin'” goin’ on here this evening…

  35. 35

    @dance around in your bones: @hitchhiker: Shush. You’re giving away our secrets. (I even watch Top Chef while nominally observing the sprout dealing w. the creepy crawlies on Minecraft.)

  36. 36

    Memo to all. Don’t feed trolls. Just don’t. Ever.

  37. 37
    Ted & Hellen says:

    @Tom Levenson:

    Oh Tommy. So delicate.

    You forgot “full stop.”

    Even if you won’t speak to me, I look forward to more of your fake pictures.

  38. 38
    hitchhiker says:

    @Tom Levenson:
    ?? I really want to know about the motor neurons . . .

  39. 39
    dance around in your bones says:

    @Tom Levenson:

    Heh, They never know how much I am not paying attention because of my encouraging murmurs.

    eta: Also, as far as trolls go, I either ignore them entirely or finally pie them if they get too tiresome. (Ahem, T&H. And no, I won’t see any reply you might make because I can’t be arsed to unpie you to look).

  40. 40
  41. 41
    bargal20 says:

    Second Life is still a thing? Ew…

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